Come 8th and 9th October 2016, Taman Rimba Alam in Presint 15, Putrajaya will be a battlefield as the Reebok Spartan Race flags off. It won’t be uncommon to see grimacing yet determined faces, loud and united cheers, fiercely competitive participants and triumphant victory shouts as participants push their limits and redefine their milestones.
The race will kick off with the Sprint race on October 8th followed by the tougher Beast the next day. For the uninitiated, the Sprint is recommended for beginners with the shortest course of 5km and 20 obstacles. Those who are ready for more can take up the challenge of the 13km Super series with 25 obstacles hosted on a tougher terrain. The Beast as its name suggests is the most challenging – testing the limits of participants all through a grueling 20km filled with 30 obstacles.
One can choose to compete in the Elite or Open category. Racers who complete all 3 Spartan distances (Sprint, Super and Beast) in one calendar year (from January to December in the same year) will earn their Trifecta medal. Races completed across the globe will count towards this honour.
We were excited to speak with seasoned Elite Spartan Athlete, Raj Ahmed to find out how he set foot into one of the world’s largest obstacle course races (OCR) and has never looked back since. Raj shares with us his Spartan story.
1. How did your Spartan journey begin?
When I came to Malaysia 9 years ago, my workouts were mostly cardio and weights. I loved running outdoors admiring the greenery and enjoying the tropical weather here. My first obstacle race was in Singapore’s Urbanathlon (10km). It was challenging, very different from the usual marathon. I then joined the Tough Mudder race and had to plough through 16 to 20 kilometers of mud and obstacles! That pumped me up for more races and soon I signed up for Spartan’s Beast 20km in Brisbane in September 2014 which had 40 obstacles! Since then, I’ve finished 3 Spartan races and I’m heading to the Beast race in Australia this November to compete and clinch my Trifecta medal!
2. What is the Spartan Race really all about?
It’s important you know that the race isn’t just about running and conquering challenges. It is undoubtedly a test of your strength, both your physical limits and mental resolve throughout. Be prepared to do some heavy lifting including buckets of sandbags uphill!
3. Share with us how one can prepare for the Race.
The key message here is that you’ve got to be strong and train. I’d strongly recommend that you focus on burpees, running and strength training. At the very least, build up your strength to do burpees. I’ll say it again, an obstacle race is different from your normal marathon. And don’t undermine the need for adequate sleep before you head off to battle!
On the day of the race, have some slow-releasing carbohydrates (anything from toast to oats and fruits) before you begin and even half-way through. Fuel up healthy before the race and stay hydrated.
I cannot emphasis how much mental strength is needed for the Race. For example, performing 30 burpees at every failed obstacle. The first few times may not be a biggie but trust me, it’ll hit you after you’ve done lifting, running uphill and various of testing-your-limits challenges – you will feel exhausted. I remember my hips feeling sore and my chest screaming when I had to do 150 burpees!
4. You’ve entered both the Elite and Open categories. Tell us how are they different.
In the Open category, everyone does the challenge together and this really motivates each team member to push hard, literally scale over walls and achieve success together. I challenged myself to join the Elite Spartan race, where you’re on your own in all that you do. It really challenges your strength, every ounce you’ve got.
5. Which is one Race experience you'll never forget?
That was a time when I had to carry a bucket of stones for 30 to 40 yards, back and forth. In the Malaysian race I entered, the buckets had a sharp rim and man, it was painful! Times like these drives you to focus on continually moving forward and break through what you thought were your limits.
6. What keeps you going for one Spartan Race after another?
It is an opportunity to prove to yourself how strong you are. After each race, you can gauge how you’ve performed and then work on improving your timing and overcoming your previous failed obstacles failed. You’ll constantly be amazed when you discover a new level of strength you’ve achieved.
7. Share with us your most memorable Race.
It has to be my first obstacle race in Brisbane where it brought out the competitive edge in me – I really pushed myself to improve and have never stopped since then.
8. Any words of advice for beginners?
To all the Spartan Race novices out there, my advice will be to enjoy the experience and allow yourself to get used to the nature of the Race. Again, you’ve got to build your mental fortitude, you will be challenged to push yourself and go beyond especially when it comes to penalties and obstacles!
You’ve got to feel comfortable running between 5 to 20km, you don’t have to be fast but you must have the stamina to endure with going through the various obstacles and penalties in between! Remember you may have to carry a log half way through running so anything is possible, really. Some I know have experienced cramps during the race. Gear up yourself physical and mentally for the unexpected.
Train, train, train. Even though I’ve been through 3 Spartan races myself, I continue to train and improve myself. Incorporate cross-training, weight lifting in addition to cardio.
To my fellow Spartan participants, I’d also like to share that your integrity will also be tested throughout the Race. It can be as simple as truthfully completing the penalty counts. At the end of the day, you want to be proud that you’ve completed the Race honourably and honestly. Remember to battle with honour!
9. In closing, do you have any post-recovery tips to share?
Stretching immediately after the Race is good but for the next few days, it’s key to stay mobile (even if you’re having DOMS!). Go for short recovery runs, yoga, foam rolling and easy exercises. All these increase the blood flow to all those weary muscles and speeds up recovery.
Eating well doesn’t end after the race. Remember to replenish your electrolytes. In addition to water, an energy drink helps. Consumed healthy fats like those from avocado, protein-building eggs, energy-boosting bananas as well as some complex carbs to allow you to carry on with your training for the next race!
Thank you very much, Raj for sharing your experiences and giving us wise advice as we prepare to face and conquer our battles at the Spartan Race. Wishing you the very best on your #RoadtoTrifecta!